Dean Wins Rug-Making Contest

A hooked rug made by Susan Higgins, Dean of the College of Professional Studies, won first place in the American Folk Art Museum's international hooked rug contest in New York earlier this month. The theme was "Icons of America."

Higgins' rug, "Colt.45," was announced the first-place winner at a museum invitational show on March 11. It will now headline in a traveling exhibit, bound next for the Shelbourne Museum in Vermont.

Entries were judged on originality, execution of theme, craftsmanship and overall appearance. The 15 finalists were chosen from nearly 64 entries spanning the globe. Lee Kogan, director of the museum's Folk Art Institute presented the awards. Other judges included Stacy C. Hollander, senior curator and director of exhibitions, American Folk Art Museum; Brooke Davis Anderson, director and curator of the Contemporary Center and the Henry Darger Study Center, American Folk Art Museum; Kristina Johnson, Esq., rug collector; Thomas K. Woodard, Woodard & Greenstein American Antiques.

Higgins chose to enter "Colt.45" with intent to focus on icons "that signify culturally imbued values that impose a subjective warrant on how we view the world and ourselves; that guide us, not always in positive ways; that may control us or fool us into thinking we are in control; that lure us into a pool of addictive delights or escapes; that form ideals of what others would have us be; or that represent a darker side."

She says all art is meant to be thought-provoking, including the subject of her winning piece. "Colt.45," she explained, represents power, domination, and the struggle between good and bad. The practice needed to reach a high degree of mastery with a weapon, such as a Colt, she reasons, is the same, regardless the users intentions -- good or bad -- and yet with the same outcome. As an icon, she wonders, "What does this say about American culture?"

Higgins says for her, rug hooking is a means of reflecting upon complex issues and exploring the boundaries between form and function, how shapes emerge in space and time.

A native New Yorker, Higgins arrived in California in 1991 to chair the kinesiology department at San Francisco State University. In 2002, she moved to Humboldt County to become the Dean of the College of Professional Studies at HSU.

Higgins has been involved in the arts throughout her life. She is trained in voice and modern dance and also studied painting and ceramics during a post-doctoral fellowship at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was introduced to rug hooking in 1994 and has since completed 20 rugs. Her work has appeared in Rug Hooking Magazine, and Celebrations VII, IX and X, the latter an annual juried publication. Higgins has shown pieces at the University Club at San Francisco State University and Wenham Museum's Reminiscence exhibit. Other pieces were part of a traveling exhibit in Japan in 2000 and for exhibit in the Old State House Show in Connecticut.